Action on Poverty holds Canary Wharf ‘sponsored yoga’ for Kenya’s Garissa massacre town

PUBLISHED: 16:41 15 April 2015 | UPDATED: 16:41 15 April 2015

Volunteers at Canary Wharf yoga fundraiser

Volunteers at Canary Wharf yoga fundraiser

Action on Poverty

A charity which runs a poverty project in Kenya where university students were massacred in an Al-Qaeda terrorist attack has held a sponsored Yoga event in east London’s Canary Wharf this week to raise funds for the stricken town.

Action on Poverty's chief executive Andrew Johnston and his yoga fundraisersAction on Poverty's chief executive Andrew Johnston and his yoga fundraisers

Nearly 40 people took part in an eight-hour marathon at Bikram Yoga studio at South Quay on Saturday, raising £5,000 for Action on Poverty.

The charity operates a camel milk project in Garissa, scene of the massacre on April 2 when four gunmen stormed the university killing 150 people and wounding 79 more, the worst atrocity in East Africa since the 1998 US Nairobi embassy bombings.

The charity’s chief UK executive Andrew Johnston flew out to Kenya yesterday to asses the situation for his aid workers.

Speaking from Clarissa, he told the East London Advertiser today: “It’s very tense here—the whole place is in lockdown, with extensive army checkpoints everywhere.

“We can’t travel to north-east Kenya because of security and are having to hold our meetings in Nairobi.

“But I met our local project people this morning, who are keen to continue despite what’s happened.”

The charity runs a project for a large community of camel herders, mainly women, to access markets to improve quality and quantity of their produce.

The project is three miles outside the centre of Garissa—but close to the town’s university where four gunmen from Al-Qaeda offshoot Al-Shabaab group took 700 students hostage, killing those who identified as Christians.

“Our project manager, it turns out, was in the same hotel as one of the terrorists,” Mr Johnston revealed.

“People are naturally worried for their safety. There is a deep sense of shock, but immense determination to work together.

“Local imams have issued condemnations of the horrifying attacks. There is a sense of determination among the people of Garissa.”

Mr Johnston flew to Kenya before he moves on tomorrow to Uganda, to another of the charity’s projects setting up sustainable self-help schemes for communities in poverty.

“Just £50 changes life of people in vulnerable situations,” he adds. “Sustainable projects give them the chance to set up their own businesses or to get work.”

The fundraising continues in London with events like Saturday’s yoga marathon in Canary Wharf.

“We are grateful to members of Bikram Yoga for showing their solidarity at this time following the tragic events in Garissa,” Mr Johnston continued.

“Our local project manager reported people in our growing network are safe and empathetic, while at the same time very upset by the cowardly attacks.

“Those who live challenging lives in dignity and tolerance in the face of appalling violence are a lesson to us all.”

The charity’s local project coordinators are continuing working in Garissa, despite the dangers.

Conny Chitnis, a director of Bikram Yoga in Canary Wharf, said: “We are pleased to support Action on Poverty’s work, especially at this time, and aim to raise enough to help transform the lives of at least 100 people through the charity.”

Action on Poverty was set up in 1984 to provide economic solutions to hunger, injustice and barriers faced by marginalised groups in Asia sub-Saharan Africa.

Its patrons include actress Dame Judy Dench, wildlife TV presenter Kate Humble who has travelled widely across Africa, ITV presenter and anthropologist Mary Ann Ochota and the Archbishop of York’s wife Margaret Sentemu.

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